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Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Still in Scrubs

I recently got a note from my friend Abby, who came a few months ago with her family, to spend the night in our cabin. I happened to be out of town when she visited, but  soon afterwards, I met her at a series of lectures I was giving, as assigned, on being a keeper at home at a conference called Polishing the Pulpit. As I read the following, I remembered that our admonition to be “oikouros” (keeper at home) is sandwiched just in between the admonition to teach “sound doctrine” and the reason for being said “keepers” —so the Word “will not be blasphemed” (Titus 2:1-5). The instruction to be “oikouros” is also attached to the characteristic of sober thinking. The young mother is commanded to be sober (or serious) in her view of Christianity.   There’s a lot of God’s authority behind our command to be keepers at home. Abby wanted to reflect the importance that God attached to her role in her personal decisions. Here is what she wrote:

I wanted to reach out and let you know what a profound impact your series on being a Keeper of the Home (at PTP) had on me. I have struggled to create the structure in our home that a homeschooling mama of four boys NEEDS. As I have reflected on your words and studied more, a light bulb went off.

I worked as a registered nurse for 11 years before I came home full time. The majority of those years required me to be up and ready very early. I worked in high stress environments and thrived, but being at home was a struggle. As silly as it might sound, part of my solution has become physically putting on my scrubs every morning. I’ve got many questions from friends and family when they have seen me out and about recently, but it works for me. Our days go much smoother when I wake up and prepare myself for my most important work as a mother to our boys.

I suppose in doing this, I am giving my husband and boys the same “best version of myself” that I gave my patients.

I like that phrase “The best version of myself.” Isn’t that what we want to give our families…the “best versions” of ourselves? Now I am not saying that means donning scrubs for all of us, but still, I love that Abby has found her version of venerating the position in her own household.

Because of the situations in which many find themselves in a culture gone awry on so many levels, I always want to add this disclaimer: I realize that some must have primary and supplemental incomes to provide basic necessities for those in the household. I’m aware, too, that not every activity that provides a supplemental income is prohibitive, in every situation, of being a keeper at home. Having said this, I rejoice that many mothers in 2018 are  finding their ways home. The best versions of ourselves are always those renderings that are seeking to follow the recipe for sound doctrine so specifically formulated by the Holy Spirit in Titus 2. 

And finally, here’s the definition from Strong’s Greek Lexicon for the word the Holy Spirit used—the word translated  “keeper at home” or “worker at home”:

g3626. οἰκούρος oikouros; from 3624 and οὖρος ouros (a guard; be “ware”); a stayer at home, i.e. domestically inclined (a “good housekeeper”): — keeper at home.

AV (1) – keeper at home 

caring for the house, 

working at home 

the (watch or) keeper of the housekeeping at home and taking care of household affairs 

a domestic

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Oikouros. Do You Do This? (Conclusion)

As this series concludes, please remember that I understand there are those moms who’d like to do this oikouoros thing, but can’t. We should help such women in any way that we can to get to the goal. Some readers may say that I cannot understand, because I lived in a world in which my husband prioritized my staying at home or because I was able to have many luxuries and still  be at home with my children during those formative years. I know that I have been very blessed and there is some truth to those objections. I have to work every day to honor Him with blessings and to be sure I am not taking them for granted as if He owes me something. At the same time, I hope we‘ve picked up on the fact that the injunction to be oikouros is an inspired teaching conveyed in a word in Titus 2 and multiple times in concept form throughout Scripture. We will always suffer spiritually when we look to the world’s decision-making standards rather than the expressed will of our Creator.

One afternoon, I was driven up to a fabulous house in a high-end neighborhood where I would be staying while speaking in the area. I walked through beautifully decorated rooms, past a well-stocked entertainment center. I said hello to two very well-dressed young children and their dad, who was taking off his tie from a busy workday. I went upstairs to the beautiful guest bed and bath where I would be sleeping. The next morning, when I awoke, I peered out the window at a fenced, park-like backyard complete with a full playground with all the bells and whistles. I went downstairs for some orange juice and began to converse across the granite kitchen bar with my hostess. 

Somehow in that conversation, we moved to the topic of stress and the busy world in which we live. In this context, came the words that still make me sad when I remember that morning. I’ve heard the words many times since then. Sometimes the words are truth and that is sad. But sometimes they are words spoken, not of conviction of conscience, but more for a hurting conscience’s comfort. Her words were “I wish I did not have to work, so I could just stay home and raise my children.”

One day a child said the words to me this way: “ My mom would like to stay home with me, but she says that if she stays home, we can’t have our pool.” A variety of amenities have completed the sentence in different situations: “our new house” or “my private education” or “our trips to Disney”. 

There is a way to get past this amazing perspective. Go on a mission trip to Zambia or Argentina or Columbia or Tanzania or Haiti or any of the hundreds of poverty-stricken places in our world. Listen to children tell you about digging for rats to eat. Take cold showers and realize the hard way that there are no adequate sewage systems. Notice that goat head or turkey tail is a coveted entree, depending on your location.

I could go on, but the point is all too obvious. We are so rich in these United States that we have come to include luxuries in our lists of necessities. Our children are sometimes bringing shame on our families because they have grown up in worlds of instant gratification; worlds void of guidance, nurture, family Bible times, and deep family prayer. “A child left to himself brings his mother shame” (Proverbs 29:15). We, like the rich young ruler, have a lot going on materially, but we will continue to reap sorrow when we allow our possessions to own us rather than the other way around. 

“He went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Mt. 19:22).

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Oikouros. Do You Do This? (Part 5)

Every now and then I read something that impacts my thinking beyond what I can even recognize at the moment. I once read such a powerful blurb about a mother who sat down to write an ad for her local paper:

Help Wanted: Five days/wk sitter for infant and toddler in my home from 6:50 am to 5:00 pm. Sitter will use parents’ vehicle for transport to appointments, library, outings.  Interested applicant needs clean background, safe driving record.  Love of reading, music and healthy nutrition required. Non-smoker/drinker who loves Jesus. Respectful, clean, honest, dependable. Must love children…

Stopping abruptly, she commented “I cannot finish. I now know that the exact person I am looking for, is me.”

I also read something similar to what you can read below when I was a young mom. I do not have information to credit either of these, since I am relying on my memory. Obviously I am paraphrasing, but these little illustrations profoundly impacted my thinking about the importance of the job I was doing as the mother of two young children. 

We are all jugglers. We juggle housework and children and friendships and careers and husbands and cooking and laundry and service to God. We juggle grocery shopping and health care and hospitality and evangelism. We become masters at the juggling act. What we sometimes fail to realize is that some of the balls with which we juggle are rubber balls. When dropped, they are resilient. They bounce right back up and we can just incorporate them once again into the process of tossing and catching. But some of the balls with which we juggle are glass balls. Once dropped, they shatter into a million pieces and we can never retrieve all the pieces and put them back together again. Children are glass balls. 

Always remember….Children ARE glass balls. Cradle, cushion, protect and keep them to one day deliver them back to the Father.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Oikouros. Do You Do This? (Part 4)

At this point, I need to interject an important truth. We do not always get to do exactly what we want to do. Of course, we simply do not.  Have you ever read something or heard a sermon about faithful attendance to all the worship services and then left that article or sermon feeling discouraged because you are having to take care of a very sick parent or because you are having to work an extra job while your spouse is suffering from cancer or because your own immune system is low ( or because of one of a thousand other things that’s been making you absent yourself  from your favorite activity in the whole world)? After all, the sermon or lesson called for repentance and you just can’t even fix the problem right now. That’s discouraging. 

I have a friend who is a faithful single mom. She understands that her situation is not the one God would have planned for her and her work schedule has been keeping her from being at the services of the church consistently. She has elicited the prayers of faithful Christian sisters as she strives to get to a point where her hours are more conducive to being there each time. She’s had us praying for specific job interviews and, at last, she has been given the job that will allow her to be at every service. Now, where was her heart all along? Was she living faithfully? Of course, she was. And God is blessing her. 

Do you know what the key is to whether or not you should repent of being absent from the assemblies? Of course you do. It is your heart. it lies in whether or not you have chosen to be absent. it lies in where you WANTED to be, 

The heart is the key. The greatest command will always be about the heart (Luke 10:25-28). It’s what you are choosing there. It’s what’s the priority there. It’s what you are doing IF you get to do exactly what you WANT to do. 

Let me just emphasize that the same is true of our word oikouros. Yes, it is an injunction from the Holy Spirit for older women to be teaching younger women to do this. It’s in a list of imperatives that keep the Word from being blasphemed by those around us. It is important. 

But every woman reading knows exactly where her heart is about oikouros. Some women, because of medical emergencies, loss of a husband’s job, sin in the past of which they are fully penitent, or a thousand other factors, may go through seasons of being absolutely unable to fully be the “worker at home” that they really want to be. But it’s about the heart. It’s about the priority there. It’s about what I am choosing. It’s about what I want for my home and family. It’s about what, given the chance, I will choose.

And, of/for those sisters, who are, at least for a time, not getting to do what they deeply wish they could be doing, we should be supportive, encouraging, prayerful, resourceful and, yes, we should be helpful. The Golden Rule goes a long, long way in helping those who are desperately wanting to be oikouros

One more illustration. I have a dear friend who has failed this week. This week she has not even cooked for her dear husband. She has not done laundry or cleaned up her house and it’s a wreck. She has not sent out her regular cards to weak members or kept up with her prayer group. If oikouros had a grading or merit system base on achievement, she has certainly failed this week. 

But her house was hit by that obliterating tornado in Jacksonville, Alabama last week. That factor makes all the difference. See, we don’t go to her right now to chastise her for the fact that all of the main things in her world are undone. We go and help her do the best she can with what’s on her plate at the moment. Because it’s all about the heart. It’s about the “want-to.” What does she want to do right now with all her heart? Because of the answer to that question, we know she is succeeding rather than failing. 

Because of my conscience about what is happening on a large scale to children in our culture…(that is, parents are choosing to relinquish their care and training to others), I will keep saying, with all of my small influence, the importance of oikouros, in conjunction with all the remaining and equally important characteristics of Titus 2:3-5. But may all of us constantly remember, that from the heart flow the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23). And may we pray for the changes that a pure heart desires. May we love, encourage with our words, support, and pray in behalf of sisters who are not getting to do what they really want to do. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Oikouros. Do You Do This? (Part 3)

I realize I have a propensity to oversimplify. I am thankful for the Titus 2 instruction embodied in the Greek word “oikouros.” It is straightforward and simple (though hard to do, in our culture). At the same time, I’m thinking I could figure out that moms of young children need to be with those children, nurturing and training them, even if I did not have that specific instruction in the New Testament. Just like the commission of murder and theft and adultery surely would violate my conscience if I were marooned somewhere and had missed exposure to the Bible,  I think I would, albeit perhaps through a bit more of a process, figure out that my children need me to be a fairly constant caretaker. 

But it would be even easier to figure it out from my community in Huntsville, AL. I’d figure out the “natural-ness” of it when I cried that first day I had to leave her to go to work. I’d figure it out when I watched moms in my neighborhood rushing out the door on freezing mornings before dawn with babies and toddlers in their pajamas. I’d figure it out when I looked down the street at the in-home daycare run by my friend and watched those dressed-for-office-in-heels moms hurrying those children into her home, while handing her the antibiotic, the clothing, the diapers and the comfort toys. I’d figure it out when I heard about moms (lots of them) who birth children who have to go in the NICU and then the hospital staff does not see those moms again until it is pick-up day. I’d figure it out when I talked to young teen girls who find themselves pregnant. Conception almost always occurs in the afternoon hours when school is out, but mom is not yet home from work. I’d probably think about it when my daughter worked in a museum for children and there were multiple occasions when children were accidentally left behind after hours by day care workers who failed to count heads correctly as buses were loaded. (Sometimes they never even missed the children till my daughter called to report there was a child still in the museum and it was closing time.) I’d figure it out through counseling kids with porn addictions, gang memberships and eating disorders…a common denominator, in my experience, often being parents who dropped the “involvement” ball somewhere along the line. I’d have figured it out that day at summer camp when Brianna’s mom did not have time to come and get her for an emergency doctor visit. After the emergency, and having understood that her mom was sick,  I asked Brianna “Now, what is the matter with your mom? I am so sorry that she is in pain.”

“Oh no,” Brianna said. “She is not in pain. She is in paint. This is her one week off work and she is trying to get a room painted, so she could not come to get me.” It’s not a wonder that Brianna was already deeply into a very dangerous eating disorder. 

Kids are not cows. Cows need food, water, shelter, a place to exercise and someone to give them some attention when they are sick. It doesn’t really matter to cows who the someone is. But kids are different because of the souls placed in them. It matters. It matters that the someone is consistent, conversational, deeply concerned about their well-being, and connected to all aspects of their lives. These factors have been proven to be important to success over and over again. They are especially important to spiritual success; the only kind of success that really matters.  The someone needs to pretend with them, make them laugh, and wipe their bottoms and clean up their vomit without it being a disgusting job. The someone needs to, in fact, truly wish she could be sick instead of the child. 

See, the Deuteronomy 6 type parenting (you know, the rising-up, sitting-down, walking-by-the- way and lying-down-at night-kind) is not possible in circumstances where small children are not even with their moms during the vast majority of their waking hours. Convictions happen in conversations. 

Just because you are the birth mother does not necessarily mean you are the mother in all respects. If you hurriedly get up in the morning—almost every morning—and rush your little one off for someone else to dry his tears, read him a story, feed him lunch and put him down for his nap, you maybe should think before calling yourself “mama”. Someone else could be filling that role more fully than are you. Someone else may actually be more responsible for the values being placed in your child. And it is especially sad when it is a lot of different someones with  multiple, varied and confusing sets of values and standards. 

I really don’t want to be harsh. But I think articulation in behalf of children is important. I cannot write a blog without occasionally speaking this glaring truth that’s so often ignored by a society in which the children are often left behind in a quest for financial and social success. Children are sometimes not able to articulate even the basic golden rule. But they are in desperate need of the application of it in America today by the adults in their volatile little worlds.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Oikouros. Do you do this? (Part Two)

Oikouros. It’s the Greek word for “keeper at home” in Titus 2: 5. In the last post, we looked at the definition of oikouros. As we think about its meaning, it helps to understand some things we can be sure oikouros does not mean.  It can’t mean that mothers of young children can never leave the house. It cannot mean that women can never do anything to add money to the family account. (Of course it cannot mean that. The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 made girdles and sold them  to the merchants, after all.) Neither can it mean that merely because I spend the vast majority of my hours at home that I am oikouros. We all know people who are physically at home, but who are not nurturing the children who are growing up in that home.

Sometimes when we look at verses that require thought and a personal alignment of our lives with them to determine how they apply to our decisions in 2018, we tend to dismiss those passages. After all, since the Bible does not give specific details of application, then I can’t really be sure how to correctly apply it. Since such a  passage leaves room for my personal opinions about the details of what to do, then whatever I decide to do (or not do) has to be okay with God. This reasoning is presumptuous. We can’t negate a command of God just because it takes some critical thinking and decision-making on our part.  Just because I may not know or understand all that a verse means for me personally does not render it meaningless. I am the finite reader. The Holy Spirit is the infinite and all-wise Author. Every admonition of the Spirit has meaning for me.

Let’s look at an example of this kind of reasoning. We read in I Timothy 2:9,10, that women are to adorn themselves in modest apparel with shamefacedness (the ability to blush) and sobriety (seriousness). But, since there is no specific mention of how many inches above the knee, cleavage or no, spandex, midriffs, bare backs, or glittering evening gowns for worship–since none of these specifics about clothing are in the verse, I must  be free to just choose whatever I want to wear. I can effectively dismiss the entire teaching. But still, even in my dismissal (or yours), there will probably be some kind of clothing that’s such an egregious failure to heed the passage that we would all agree it is immodest. Maybe a skimpy two-piece swimsuit or a string bikini. Surely, although we might disagree about some kinds of attire, we would all agree that the string bikini or skimpy two-piece would be an extreme failure to adhere to I Timothy 2:9. (As you might guess, I’m convicted that there are lots of ways to violate the principle of modesty in I Timothy 2:9, but I’m laying those aside for the sake of this reasoning process.)

So let’s apply even that very weak kind of adherence to the term oikouros in Titus 2:5. Is there some kind of decision about home-keeping that we might consider an egregious failure to be oikouros— a stayer-at-home? Is there a scenario in which all of us would agree that one is not adhering to the admonition to be a keeper-at-home? How could one egregiously fail to be oikouros?

What if a mother of young children chose (the word chose is key) to spend two thirds of the waking hours of her young children, five days each week, outside of the home, leaving her children in the care of others? What if during the other four waking hours of those young children she was stressfully attempting to do all the laundry, cook and serve dinner, keep the house clean, get the children bathed and brushed, help with any homework, take time for hugs and conversation with the children and have family Bible time, all while taking proper care to be the wife described in Titus two and Ephesians five and I Peter three? If there is a way to not do Titus 3:5, would this be it?

As you can tell, I’m thinking out loud here….But I’m thinking about how a passage applies to a culture–my culture– in which it has become the norm for mothers to spend most of their daily routines away from their young children. We have allowed our thinking and maybe even our national economy to become solidly established around this norm.  I’m wondering if the norm in our culture has wielded such a powerful effect on our thinking, during two generations of American women in the workplace, that  women in our churches have effectively dismissed the command to be a keeper at home, a worker at home, a stayer at home, a domestic. In such a climate, it becomes difficult for women of God to step back and see His directives as commands that call us to be different from the world around us. Does oikouros call us to reject a way of life that many consider to be a necessity in our nation today?